Communicating ideas creatively
In academic environments, writing in sentences and paragraphs is commonly the primary format of presenting research and findings. You may have seen many sources using diagrams, flow charts and visual representations of their findings in their work. You might have also been encouraged you to use things like tables and flow charts in your own work. While this is generally seen as something academics will want to see in your work to break up the writing visually, communicating yours and others’ ideas in other ways to writing can be very useful for your own understanding and accessibility reasons too. This blog will demonstrate a few ways in which visual communication techniques will strengthen your work.
What do we mean by visual representation?
When we talk about visual representations, we are referring to presenting information in the form of pictures, diagrams, tables and shapes rather than sentences and paragraphs. It might sound quite daunting if you have been primarily taught to write down your ideas and use a lot of jargon to convey your knowledge to date. However, there are many benefits to this.
How this can help you
Very often this approach will also be a win-win for helping others to understanding your ideas too. If presenting information in a visual format helps you to communicate ideas more effectively and makes it more comfortable for you to defend your ideas, it is likely to be understood quicker by others too. It might even reduce the time you need to explain your ideas to others at events and assessment scenarios. Images and visual communications can enhance the text presented by make topics more accessible and therefore easier for others to understand. Additionally, because visual representations are usually supposed to summarise ideas with minimal text, this can really help with reminding yourself of your specific focus within a research project.
How this can help others
Presenting information in a variety of formats other than purely sentences and paragraphs simplifies your ideas and makes them more concise for others i.e. your supervisors, external examiners and event attendees to understand. Academics read so much written information in paragraphs that any visuals can make a statement much quicker and easier for them to understand. The writing can then be used to critique these visually presented ideas and form discussion about what the visual depicts.
Here are a few examples to get you start thinking about how you might like to communicate your ideas visually.
Some final thoughts
It is important to be mindful that some visual presentations will be useful more than others across different subjects. There may be times when others note that including these in your final pieces of work are less appropriate but that doesn’t mean you can’t make these part of your research process to help yourself reflect on your work. On the other hand, having such diagrams in your work is likely to make it stand out to an audience as well as the other benefits listed above. It is also important to be aware of the impact visual communications may have on screen reader software for readers using these. Communicating your ideas using different mediums can be both helpful in making your work accessible to others as well as you; because at the end of the day, if your communication method helps you, it is very likely to help others understand your work too.